Television

Tele novellas-the new programming gambit?

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MUMBAI: Melodrama-packed family sagas may still be ruling Indian television, but they better get set for some erosion in their popularity as some serious competition is around the corner.



With Sony all geared to launch a Spanish tele-novella adaptationHum 2 Hain Na and Star Plus' two new shows also based on Spanish tele-novellas, it seems adaptations, especially the Spanish ones, are set to invade the tube.



They may not yet be perceived as strong enough to take on home grown soap sagas, but the impact of the success of the desi adaptation of Hispanic show Yo Soy Betty La Fea, aka Jassi Jaissi Koi Nahi is considerable enough to make one sit up and take note.



The next big show set to make a splash on Sony Entertainment Television is Spanish tele-novella adaptation Hum 2 Hain Na. Although the promos of H2HN have been on the airwaves for some time now, the channel is pretty tightlipped about the show. Industry sources say the show revolves around two 11-year-old twins Kareena and Koel, played by Hansika Motwani. A spoilt brat versus a sensitive and perceptive young girl story a la The Parent Trap, H2HN is a daily scheduled for the Monday through Thursday 8 pm slot.



Brought up in an elegant mansion, Kareena dreams of becoming a famous singer but lacks talent. At a town fair, she accidentally hears a voice she wishes she had. The singer not only turns out to be her age, but also happens to be her lookalike. Koel, hailing from a middle class family is sensitive and perceptive. Though Kareena and Koel are poles apart, they hit it off almost instantaneously when they meet. They decide to keep their friendship a secret. That is the basic premise of the story. The daily also stars small screen stars Shruti Ulfat and Cezanne Khan.



Star Plus' next launch Dekho Magaar Pyar Se, set for, again, an 8 pm slot and slated for launch on 26 July, is also a Spanish tele-novella adaptation of My Sweet Fat Valentina and has an uncanny resemblance to the Jassi... format - ugly ducking turning into a beautiful swan.



The channel is also to launch another Spanish tele-novella in the 7:30 pm slot, to be produced by UTV. Both the channel and the production house acknowledge that they are launching a new show, but they aren't as keen on divulging the storyline. 



"The business objective is simple: 'If it works, it sells'. And not necessarily in terms of ratings. Look at Jassi..., though the show hasn't delivered much, it has amazing recall," opines Optimum Media Solutions executive vice-president Amit Ray. 



Carat India general manager Pratibha (Pat) Vinayak has a different take on it, "The soap trend is on the decline. Although it is not showing on the ratings, I think the audience is looking for some change. While it would be foolish to touch already working soaps, the smarter way is to bring on newer programming, so as to give the viewers a wider choice."



Starcom Worldwide general manager - Investment and New Initiatives Manish Porwal offers, "I wouldn't call Spanish tele-novella adaptations as a trend. It is rather like a variance. The saas-bahu sagas will continue to rule but since we as an audience aren't really keen on originality, I think we will do fine with adaptations. We have adapted to quite a few cultures in our traditional practices. So the adaptations are likely to go well with our audiences." 



"The key word here is adaptation," Ray emphasises. "A successful adaptation like Jassi... has been sufficiently spruced up to suit Indian sensibilities. If you look at the original version, the gay designer's character has a lot more to do. In the Indian version, he is not even shown to be a gay, but is rather just an effeminate character," he adds. 



"(But) I don't think that the viewer is so drastically different. Be it in Bihar or in LA, television is essentially just a time pass," Ray concludes.



Vinayak opines, "It makes sense to adapt something that has been working well elsewhere. The programming might be a trial and error method, but here you already have a formula - essentially a family drama - which has been accepted by audiences elsewhere. So the smart thing to do is adapt it to the Indian context."



Although, most planners just see it as a natural trend that has emerged after the critical acclaim of Jassi..., they don't seem quite as confident of the genre's long-term prospects.



"As soon as there is a hit in a genre, the enthusiasm to replicate it is high. It does not guarantee that the next experiment on the same line will also be successful," cautions Lodestar and Interface Media's national media director Nandini Dias.



"Soaps are like blue denims, they never go out of fashion. They will remain the staple diet, but yes the tele-novella adaptation seems to be in vogue now. Why, we had successful adaptations earlier as well, look at Kaun Banega Crorepati!" Porwal points out. 



Another reason why adaptations are back in vogue seems to be the marketing and advertising prospects that they offer. "They certainly have an edge. But advertisers are keen on getting higher sales and greater awareness. Everything else is incidental to the process," says Dias.



"While advertisers choose to buy soaps because they are soaps, they are often intrigued by adaptations because they are different. They offer varied options to advertise. Unlike soaps, quite a few products have an opportunity of being advertised via in-serial promotions in the adaptation shows," Porwal says.



Looking at the broad umbrella picture, adaptations do seem like the flavour of the month, and not just of the Spanish kind. With Sony's take on Beverly Hills, 90210 --- Yeh Meri Life Hai --- getting its fair share of recall value, the channel is now looking to launch a Dougie Howser MD adaptation Ayushmaan . Star Plus, meanwhile, is all set to debut its take on Batman's capers Karma on 6 August at 9:30 pm slot.



In all probability, adaptations do seem a workable proposition with interesting advertising avenues, if adapted well. But that's again a big If...

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